Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2008. Evenstar Films, Film Science, Harmony Productions, Primitive Nerd. Screenplay by Jonathan Raymond, Kelly Reichardt, based on the story Night Choir by Jonathan Raymond. Cinematography by Sam Levy. Produced by Larry Fessenden, Neil Kopp, Anish Savjani. Production Design by Ryan Warren Smith. Costume Design by Amanda Needham. Film Editing by Kelly Reichardt. American Film Institute 2008. Independent Spirit Awards 2008. National Board of Review Awards 2008. Toronto International Film Festival 2008.
It’s a rough day when you can’t find your dog. Michelle Williams has left Indiana and is driving to Alaska when she has car trouble and stops in an Oregon town to recover. While shoplifting dog food she is caught by a store employee and sent to prison, only to get out hours later and discover that her pup is missing. Her attempts to recover her canine companion, not to mention deal with a broken down car, make up the bulk of this moody, quiet film that never for a minute strains credibility (provided that you believe that someone in their right mind would arrive in a new town and sleep under a blanket in the middle of the woods) but often tests your patience. Williams is wholly engrossing in the lead role, never flashy or overly indicative, and Kelly Reichardt’s direction boldly avoids any kind of dramatic confrontations. This impressive dedication to realism, however, also robs the film of any chords of tension; the stakes aren’t quite high enough to engross the viewer despite the surprisingly sympathetic lead and situations.